EXCEPTER: Debt Dept (Paw Tracks)


Posted on Apr 11th 2008 12:34 am

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Excepter: Debt Dept

Debt Dept
Paw Tracks 2008
08 Tracks. 43 mins 48secs

Normally, urging the listener to “kill people” repeatedly on record would lead to scores of scaremongering splashes in the national press about the latest antichrists of the music scene. That Excepter have so far escaped this fate is probably down partly to their relative obscurity when compared with other musical bete noires. Yet although the shrieking editorial writers may yet have come to notice them, the band have been beguiling and infuriating music fans for years with their off-kilter anti-pop insanity. This, their fourth release, will probably divide listeners as much as the others, but it offers some pretty perverse pleasures to those who can stomach the ride.

To imagine what this band sounds like, picture yourself walking into a music store with sections devoted to different musical genres. It’s music that is almost straining itself to be new, colliding fashions and tastes to produce something that is either a racket or a mad bleeping paragon of clarity, depending on your viewpoint.

Debt Dept, their first album for Animal Collective label Paw Tracks, comes with a litany of loopy statements about destroying “the boundaries between the psychic friends network and reality television” and releasing protest songs “played in an anti-commercial style with a timeless message for today’s election-year consumer”. It’s hard to know if we are meant to take the rhetoric seriously, but it is perhaps best overlooked in favour of the music itself. Indeed, the very idea that these are protest songs is almost mockingly undermined by the string of instrumental tracks on the album that work themselves out of different private puzzles. Greenhouse / Stretch, notably, could really be about anything at all, with its randomised organ patterns zipping along over a slow-moving trip-hop rhythm. Occasionally, voices growl distantly, as though sung from somewhere outside the studio walls, but the linguistic pretensions seem at best to be a neat ironic joke.

Of course, it is the music that will get the attention here, and rightly so. Excepter are almost openly lampooned for their ear-splitting inconsistency, but there is a very definite thread behind all of the tracks on this release. Hard to define easily, it could be summarised as a musical fist fight between the Beach Boys, Boogie Down Productions and the DJ at a late-night underground party for surf-rock subversives. It is defiantly retro, defiantly new, defiantly defiant – and, by definition, defiantly Paw Tracks. It is hard not to admire music as unnervingly off-beat as this, especially when everything clicks together perfectly, such as on tracks like SunriseEntrance 08. But at times the weirdness just seems laboured, as though, having run out of fresh ideas, they have just decided to monkey around in the studio and keep the tape running.

When we learn that seventeen tracks were recorded for the album, and eventually cut down to just the eight here, it almost makes sense – as though, not having room for all of them, they merely decided to stick all the songs on top of one another. This is in a way both the album’s weakness and its defining strength, and one that will no doubt continue to bewilder those who follow the band. But perseverance and an unusual proclivity for ear-hurting musical madness are probably the key here, as this is not an album that will make much sense until the listener’s natural resistances wear off. Buy it then, but don’t expect to like it much until the summer kicks in.


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